Mix and match grasses. Annuals and perennials combine with several different grasses to make an ever-changing and colorful tableau.
A few years ago, I was designing a garden for clients who, like me, are big fans of ornamental grasses. We had planted grasses in abundance on their previous property. Now they were planning a garden composed of informal beds within a formal design. Stymied, I decided to visit the old garden. Like an old friend I hadn’t seen in a while, it looked different to me. I realized that I had used grasses as hedges, along pathways, and as focal points and edgings. Rather than being seduced only by grasses’ colors, textures, and plumes, I began to see their architectural forms. Grasses can act visually like shrubs. Some are arching, others stiff and formal. They have different weights as well. It dawned on me that grasses could be used to define space in a garden.
With this new insight, I stopped worrying as much about which plants to use and focused on the forms I needed. Suddenly my ideas began to flow more easily. I used dense, arching forms as hedges and borders to define and enclose areas of the garden. I combined the many vertical shrubs and structures with strong, upright grasses. I chose looser, more open grasses to soften the strictness of the vertical elements. This resulted in a garden with forms that complemented each other, while the different varieties of grasses added subtle color and movement.